A beautiful friend recently sent me a surprise in the mail that made me cry. This lovely lady knew about my challenging start to 2013 when life threw me one of those curveballs that leave you reeling and wondering how on earth you’ll ever pick yourself up. As I faced my darkest days, I opened my mailbox to find an illustration from this friend accompanied by kind words that did more than bring tears down my eyes. Hot saltiness was streaming down my cheeks as I read her message and looked at the stunning illustration she had sent me. This illustration by Sweet William, Love.
Along with her words, the illustration reminded me of the power of art to move us. To touch our core and be a light in times of darkness. To inspire us. Art truly is one of those things that can speak to us.
You are never too young to appreciate art and I believe that children enjoy and benefit from the inspiration of art from a young age. Not only through their desire to paint and draw their own masterpieces, but also through viewing the work of other artists in picture books and magazines. A terrific place to share art with children is in the home where it can inspire them daily. Art is wonderful like that.
It also reminded me of an interview that was lost with the old tiny & little website – an interview with the sister team duo behind Sweet William. It seems timely to republish it now and I hope you enjoy hearing what inspires them and that their art speaks to you in a way like it has done to me.
Please tell us a little about Sweet William.
Sweet William is a creative collaboration between myself Paula Mills (Melbourne based illustrator) and my sister Shelley Gardner, who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Despite being miles apart we wanted to connect creatively and so we started Sweet William in 2008. Sweet William is named after a childhood pet – a big fat orange Persian cat.
Sweet William is passionate about 100% handmade and offer a unique range of art prints, paper goods and stationery.
How would you describe your style?
I would describe my style as whimsical. My illustrations always start with a fine ink pen or pencil, to which collage, paint and texture are added. I draw inspiration from childhood memories, paper ephemera, old children’s books, all things vintage and my children.
What do you love most about what you do?
I get to work from home and do what I am passionate about.
Which artists and designers inspire you?
Do you remember what the first piece you made was?
The first illustration I did for Sweet William was the Orchid but the first product we put up for sale was a mixed paper pack – full of exciting vintage paper finds!
What is your favourite Sweet William piece?
My favourite piece is the Circle Collage.
Your collection is a beautiful blend of natural colouring with intricate details, stunning pops of colour and thoughtful words, as well as a blend of materials and products. What inspires you for each of your different creations?
It is very important to me that my work is uplifting. I got back into drawing and painting as part of my journey with grief after losing my Mother in 2005. I am drawn to images and thoughts that are positive, encouraging, creative, fun but that also hold a some sensitivity and feeling.
Did you start creating from a young age or always know that you wanted work creatively?
Yes my Grandfather was also an illustrator and I have very fond early memories of cutting and pasting and painting in his lovely big home studio in Cape Town, South Africa. I went to art school in South Africa and then into a career in Advertising as an art director.
With you separated by the Tasman Sea in Australia and New Zealand, how does your creative process work together?
Shelley and I chat often about new work and fresh products. Shelley sews beautifully (I can’t at all) and we have collaborated on a few very special Madonna and Child Dolls, which I designed and she made up by hand. Shelley helps me out with all the international orders and makes all of the soft toys. We do dream of being able to collaborate more closely but are pretty happy with the way it is all going so far.
Please tell us five words that describe you.